October 27, 2011

John Yau poetry reading: My Ten Monochrome Adventures

Last night I went to John Yau's poetry reading at the New York Studio School, where he read several poems, including "Further Adventures in Monochrome," a poem written from Yves Klein's point of view. Here's a video of Yau reading "My Ten Monochrome Adventures," an earlier version of the evocative poem, at the Walker Art Center last year during the Klein retrospective. Yau, who until last week was an art editor at The Brooklyn Rail, has published more than 50 books of poetry, short stories, and criticism, including A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns (2009). An associate professor of critical studies at Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts, he writes beautifully about painting and painters. Copper Canyon Press is publishing his next book of poetry, due out in spring 2012.

October 23, 2011

Book of the Day: Coming to That by Dorothea Tanning

 Dorothea Tanning, "Voltage," 1942, oil on canvas, 11 1/8 x 12 1/8"

Dorothea Tanning,"Pelote d'├ępingles pouvant servir de f├ętiche (Pincushion to Serve as Fetish)," 1965, black velvet, white paint, gun pellets, and plastic with pins, 15 3/4 x 17 15/16 x 15 3/4." courtesy of the Tate Gallery, London

Graywolf Press has just released Coming to That, surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning's second book of poetry. Tanning, who lived with Max Ernst for 34 years, "gave full rein to her long felt compulsion to write" after he died in 1976.  Since then, her writing has appeared in a number of literary reviews and magazines, such as The Yale ReviewPoetryThe Paris ReviewThe New YorkerThe Boston ReviewThe Southwest ReviewParnassus, and in Best Poems of 2002 and 2005. Her published works include two memoirs, Birthday and Between Lives, a collection of poems, A Table of Content, and a novel, Chasm.

Tanning, who is 101, was profiled in The New Yorker last week by Don Chiassen. Here's the abstract from their website.
One is not sure what sort of poems to expect from a centenarian, but Dorothea Tanning’s second book, Coming to That (Graywolf; $15), comes as a surprise. At a hundred and one, Tanning is the self-described “oldest living emerging poet.” Tanning is also the oldest living Surrealist, a tag she dislikes but cannot shake. Her father fought beside his friend Carl Sandburg in the Spanish-American War; Sandburg checked in on Tanning from time to time. In 1942 Max Ernst visited her studio in New York and admired an untitled self-portrait of Tanning. Ernst suggested the title “Birthday,” stayed to play chess, and fell in love.
The two were married for nearly thirty years. Much of Coming to That is retrospective; Tanning has a lot of past to cover. But it is also about living in the future, an experience someone might glibly call “surreal.” Beginning in the late sixties, Tanning did a series of soft sculptures made mostly from tweeds and other fabrics, many suggesting the female body. She wanted them to last no longer than a human life; unlike sculptures in marble or plaster, these would fall apart at roughly the same rate as a human body.
 Mini cliffhangers abound in Tanning’s poetry, a playful answer to the serious problem of how, at a hundred and one, to regard passing time. But there is no dread of mortality in Tanning. Neither is there any “acceptance,” or its blustery twin, “defiance.” Consigned to the here and now, Tanning sometimes gives us a kind of dreamy, metaphysical small talk—the most defiant use of one’s time imaginable, if time is short.
As she writes in one poem, “If Art would only talk it would, at last, reveal / itself for what it is, what we all burn to know.”

October 22, 2011

A rolling conversation: Pricing artwork

 Everyone begins taking their seats before the Rolling Conversations get underway.

 Dr. Paul D'Agostino of Centotto and Rolling Conversation organizer Adam Simon discuss alt art spaces devoted to dialogue.

 Frances Richard and Matt Freedman discuss Clumpism and contemporary notions of the Avant Garde.

Last night at "Rolling Conversations," the inaugural event at Studio 10, Austin Thomas and I had a frank public conversation about pricing artwork. Although artists who show at high-end galleries seem to have no problem talking about their prices and comparing auction results, for emerging artists who don't sell regularly, assigning specific value to their work is nearly taboo. To get the audience acclimated to this uncomfortable subject (talking about process and ideas is so much more stimulating), I began the conversation by asking everyone to write on a scrap of paper how much they charge for their art work. The prices ranged from $0-12,000, and I suspect if we had asked everyone just to tell us their prices out loud, few people would have participated.

Many artists are reluctant to assign their work a fixed price because prices traditionally fluctuate according to geographic location, wealth of buyer, economic times and other factors. For galleries, prices may be posted, but no one knows how much the galleries actually receive for the work. Discretion and privacy are the galleries' prevailing practices, but is enshrining secrecy in the best interest of emerging artists? As Thomas pointed out last night, it is accepted that prices for most other commodities fluctuate from year to year, region to region, for largely valid reasons. So why be so coy about art prices in particular?

In fact, fluid, secretive pricing alienates emerging art buyers and even other artists from buying art. We would suggest that artists establish and post prices for their work, as Thomas did recently when she participated in the Elizabeth Foundation Open Studio. Over the course of three days, Thomas sold numerous pieces, mostly to other artists who probably would have been too embarrassed to ask about prices had they not been clearly marked.

Austin' presented the pricing at her open studio as an art project called Pricing Artwork is Problematic.  "An examination of money, Mastercard, and cash&carry travel-ready ideas," the sign reads."Everything must go!"

Here's one of the the many empty spots left on Austin's wall after visitors bought her collages.

Jason Andrew of Norte Maar and STOREFRONT and Fred Valentine, who recently opened the gallery Valentine in Ridgewood, agree that pricing art work shouldn’t be such a mysterious, unspeakable topic for artists who haven’t begun to sell their work. In an effort to grow the low-end market, Fred has dedicated a small area in the front of his gallery to artwork under five hundred dollars. “I am always looking for items and art for the ‘Gift Shop,” he said. “I take 25% off anything in the gallery under $1,000.00 and this allows the artist to keep the price reasonable but still not feel like they are giving it away.”

 Fred Valentine's "Gift Shop," featuring one of Cathy Nan Quinlan's beautiful cross-hatch paintings.

Jason, who has worked with numerous emerging artists at both Norte Maar and STOREFRONT,  believes that emerging artists routinely overprice their work. He thinks that in establishing a market for their projects, they ought to look at mainly the cost of materials and the time it took to make each piece rather than what other artists are charging, which is usually too high. Getting the work on someone’s wall is preferable to keeping it in storage while waiting for demand to magically materialize on its own.

  Patricia Satterlee's installation at Norte Maar.

In this heady time of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Artworld, and Occupy Museums, artists need to pay due attention to the business side of their own art practices. We need to occupy ourselves. It’s fine to call attention to the exclusionary and unfair practices that are rampant in the art world. But we should also start thinking about how we can help ourselves. Talking openly about how we price our work, though awkward at first, was a good start.

 At left, Studio 10 director Larry Greenberg. Thanks, Larry, for opening a new space in Bushwick.

Related articles: 
Five galleries in Bushwick you (probably) haven't been to yet (Hyperallergic)

Process: Gerhard Richter

How does Gerhard Richter make those big abstract paintings? Filmmaker Corinna Belz spent three years recording Gerhard Richter at work in his Cologne studio. Here is some footage from the 2010 film, "Gerhard Richter Painting," which is on view this weekend at the Tate Modern in conjunction with his career retrospective, "Gerhard Richter; Panorama," that opened earlier this month. “I’m still very sure that painting is one of the most basic human capacities, like dancing and singing,” Richter says in the exhibition catalogue.

"Gerhard Richter: Panorama," curated by Mark Godfrey. Tate Modern, London, through January 8, 2012.

October 18, 2011

Rolling Conversations this Friday night in Bushwick

UPDATE:  For a report on my conversation  with Austin and images of the event, click here.

This Friday, October 21, 7- 9pm, please join me for  "Rolling Conversations," an event organized by Adam Simon at Studio 10, a new gallery/salon (pictured above) at 56 Bogart Street in Bushwick. 56 Bogart Street is the new home of well-known Brooklyn non-profits Momenta Art and NurtureArt, which will be having openings, too. I've been paired with Austin Thomas for a conversation called "Pricing is Problematic." We don't know where the conversation will go, but we'll start with some general thoughts about our personal (pre)occupations.

UPDATE: Karen Marston, Director of NurtureArt says they are still under construction and that the new space isn't scheduled to open until November 11. Sorry for the mix up.

Paul D'Agostino and Adam Simon on "The Four Walls of Centotto"

Sharon Butler(that's me) and Austin Thomas on "Pricing is Problematic"
Matt Freedman and Frances Richard on "Clumpisms vs The Avant-Garde"

October 16, 2011

Good painting: Tatiana Berg and Sarah Faux

Berg stretches canvas around handmade wooden frames and then paints the surfaces with spray paint, oil and enamel.

Comparing their process to Bill Murray's improv, Sarah Faux and Tatiana Berg think sometimes you die onstage, but eventually you stop fearing death. After several rounds of email regrets and missed appointments (again, sorry Tatiana!), I finally made it out to Bed-Stuy the other day, painter Laurie Fendrich by my side, to check out "Dank," Faux and Berg's exhibition at Tompkins Projects. The two recent grads (Faux received a BA/BFA from Brown/RISD in 2009 and Berg a BFA from RISD the same year), who call themselves chronic over-producers, embrace a haphazard, accidental approach to painting in which "stripes of spray-paint and globs of oil chase a perverse formalism to the edge of every canvas."

It's a fine show, with intuitive, thought-provoking work. On our way back to Manhattan, Fendrich and I, both seasoned art professors, had a stimulating conversation about the difficulty of critiquing student work that explores, sometimes unwittingly, the fashion for rule-breaking, anti-Bauhaus formalism. In the age of new casualism, a case can be made that everything is a "good painting," especially the ones that might have been considered, well, sophomoric ten or fifteen years ago.

 Two of Sarah Faux's paintings. The one on the left features a shiny silver image of a nose. Oil and spray paint on canvas, each 42 x 38 inches.

One of Tatiana Berg's "tent" paintings. Wood frame, staples, yard and string with wheels.

 Laurie Fendrich and Tatiana Berg discussing the wheels on the bottoms of Berg's pieces. The wheels, which convey a humorous pragmatism, also lend the three-dimensional paintings a wry sense of transience.

 Faux employs tiny collage elements and globs of paint to add facial details to abstract shapes.

Sarah Faux

"Berg/ Faux: Dank," Tomkins Projects, Brooklyn, NY. Through October 22, 2011.

Related posts:
Out with the old, or, Hello 2011 (a few upcoming exhibitions)
Gahl and Berg @ Nudashank in Baltimore

October 12, 2011

Quick study

Here are some recent items expanded from the Two Coats of Paint Twitter Feed.

Among the 18 artists selected for the deCordova Biennial is Joe Wardwell. "Come on Feel it," 2011, oil on panel, 24" x 24"

18 artists selected for deCordova Biennial, Jan. 22-Apr. 22, 2012 'The 2012 Biennial remains non-thematic but aims to reflect the dynamism, variety, and quality of art-making in the New England region. Featured artists grapple with contemporary issues, touching on a range of emergent and established practices: third wave craft, updated abstraction, art in the social sphere, a resurgence of trompe-l'oeil in object-making, and new takes on photography."  Curated by Dina Deitsch and Guest Curator Abigail Ross Goodman.


In all the major media this week: Pregnant artist Marni Kotek plans to give birth at gallery in front of an audience.  "As this will take place in front of an audience, rather than in the privacy of my home, I am doing extra mental preparation at the advice of my doula (who along with my midwife will be present at the birth) to let go of my mind and totally go into my body. She told me that once I really enter active labor the body just takes over and I won't care at all what is going on around me. My focus will be on having my baby."

Didn't I predict that this type of parenting-as-performance piece in a 2008 article on motherhood  in The Brooklyn Rail?


Paul married a Jersey girl?


Sharon Arnold writes at dimensions variable // On Potential "It's been a while since I've really worked out artistic problems in words. Things could go either way but for now, things are leaning in my favour. I'm not going to know, until I know. So I will write, rather than wait. "


David Kramer at Heiner Contemporary in Washington, DC. "Photo Op," 2011, ink/bleach/paper, 19 ½” x 25 ½”

AT World: Drawing on the Utopic - A visit to Heiner Contemporary


Why occupy colleges? (RT )
"Of course they are angry — wouldn’t you be angry if you were graduating in the fall of 2012 with more than $30,000 in debt and fearing that you may not be able to find a job?"


Check out the murky green Milton Resnick painting in "Portrait of a Soul" a group show curated by Jay Pluck


Have you seen "Three Trips Around the Block" the Rico Gatson retrospective at ?


Great advice// Careers: Don't Talk About Mentoring:


Right-on Roberta: "Loren Munk gives dizzying visual expression to the history beneath our feet"


Art history lesson: How LA made its reputation as the art world's outsider city


Painter admits forgeries totalling $22 million in 'Europe's biggest art scam'  "I imagined in my mind an original, a picture that each of the painters had never got round to painting..."


Veterans of the New York School Reflect on the 1950s - )


And last but not least, here's the stunning painting I got at the NurtureArt Benefit last night:

Becky Yazdan, "Year of No," 2008. oil on clay panel, 9 x 12"

"The paintings are like dreams – the events of the day reorganized and combined with other events and memories until a new, often surprising, reality has taken shape."

October 9, 2011

Susan Rothenberg's disparate images

Susan Rothenberg, "Raven," 2010, oil on canvas, 87 1/2 x 75 1/8."

Susan Rothenberg's show at Sperone Westwater features vigorous new paintings of birds, circus performers, heads, hands, and smaller paintings of dogs napping in the studio. At first glance, the subjects of the paintings seem unconnected. But the driving force in Rothenberg's work continues to be the combination of agitated brushstroke and idiosyncratic composition, which enables the painter to move convincingly from perceptual study of the world around her to more symbolic imagery, such as acrobats and detached heads.

In a 2005 interview at Art21, Rothenberg discussed the matter of diverse images in her work.
"Most artists really wish they had a series where one painting would lead to the next painting and it would be a variation on it. That’s what happened in my early career—the horses. Now the paintings are more of a battle to satisfy myself with and I do not have a sense of series. As you see here: there are two snake paintings, two paintings about this idea called meaningless gestures, two paintings that are reflection of my domestic situation in the house. With each of them, the second painting seems to complete the series. I’d like to get a hold of something and be on that idea for a couple of years at least—but that’s not happening at the moment." 
For my part, I'd rather see painters like Rothenberg cast about and explore new ideas than latch onto a single motif and beat it to death. I hope the days of painters making fifty nearly identical paintings are behind us. In my view, Rothenberg should feel more liberated than rueful.
Susan Rothenberg, "Raven," detail of the branches, 2010, oil on canvas, 87 1/2 x 75 1/8"

Susan Rothenberg, "Ring Necks, Covering," 2011, oil on canvas, 57 1/4 x 65 1/4"
Susan Rothenberg, "Strangers in the Night," 2010, oil on canvas, 81 x 115 1/4"

At left: "Ring Necks, Covering."  At right: Susan Rothenberg, "The Height The Width The Weight," 2010, oil on canvas, 42 3/4 x 51"

Susan Rothenberg, "Circus," 2009 - 2010, oil on canvas, 76 x 68"

Susan Rothenberg, "White Raven," 2011, oil on canvas, 92 x 115 5/8"
"Susan Rothenberg," Sperone Westwater, New York, NY. Through October 29, 2011.

October 7, 2011

Field trip: Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Yesterday I went up to MassArt in Boston to participate in an excellent panel discussion about teaching visual arts courses online. I was an undergrad painting major at MassArt, and it was good to stop in for a visit. Here are some images from the trip.

 Camel made out of wood and panty hose. None of the art had labels, so if anyone knows who the artists are, please leave info in the comments section.

One of the bulletin boards.

 A student in Fred Liang's Intro to Printmaking class working on an etching.

Prints drying on the rack in the printshop.

 Here's Fred, who is a 2010 ICA Foster Prize recipient,  working with one of the students. The impressive printshop, which is set up in an old gymnasium, has plenty of presses and generous workspace.

 Litho stones!

 The Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery featured Shazia Sikander's projected animations and paintings on paper. The exhibition was curated by Hou Hanru for the Walter and McBean Galleries at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Shazia Sikander, gouache, graphite and ink on paper.

Here's an amazing painting in "Don't Quit Your Day Job," an exhibition in the Art Education Program's Arnheim Gallery. The show featured work by artists in Gateway Arts, Outside the Lines and Webster House, three local organizations for artists with disabilities. I want to buy it, but I don't know who to contact. If you can help me, please send a note to twocoatsofpaint@gmail.com and advise. Thanks.

Glazed ceramic cubes on wood.

I ran into one of my old classmates, Linda Ross, in the hall. She teaches at MassArt and has a glass casting studio in Boston. Her clients include Kiki Smith, Robert Gober, Maya Lin and Eric Fischl.

An undergrad studio.

 The view from another undergrad studio. So Edward Hopper.

 A series of Marcia Lloyd's lovely landscape paintings was on display in the room where we had the panel. She's retired now, but was on the painting faculty when I was a student. Unfortunately I can't find any information about her work online.

The next post will cover my presentation at the panel discussion, which featured several professors are enthusiastic proponents of teaching visual arts courses online. If anyone works at a university that  offers, or is thinking of offering, online studio courses, please send me a note. I'd love to hear about your experiences.